Newly elected state Del. Marie March, a Republican from Floyd County, has abruptly ended her association with a GOP strategist convicted of several federal corruption charges and pardoned in 2020 by then President Donald Trump. John Tate, owner of JFT Consulting, had joined March’s team in the final stages of her campaign along with his wife Beth, whom March had introduced as her legislative aide in an interview with conservative podcaster Scott Bunn just days ago.
Caleb Cruey, who identified himself as March’s new legislative aide in an email Friday, said that John Tate’s contract with the delegate would end by the end of the day. “Beth and John Tate are no longer affiliated with Delegate March in any capacity,” Cruey wrote in the email. He did not weigh in on the reasons for the couple’s sudden departure.
Tate had served as campaign manager for the Ron Paul 2012 Presidential Campaign Committee and as the national political director for the 2008 Ron Paul Presidential Campaign. He was convicted in 2016 by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa for paying Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson $73,000 to switch his endorsement to then-U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, during his 2012 presidential campaign.
In the podcast interview published on YouTube on Dec. 22, March, who defeated Democrat Derek Kitts by a 32% margin in the 7th House of Delegates district in November, hailed Beth Tate as “a really cool lady that’s my legislative aide.” While March didn’t elaborate further on her husband’s official role with her office, she made clear that she was excited about the couple working on her behalf.
“They’ve helped Rand Paul for years and years. They come from politics, they know the system, they know how to raise money, they know the numbers game, they know all of this,” she said. “I’ve got some serious firepower on my team, and they know a lot of the players. Some of the groups that I’ve lined up behind me are very pro-liberty, and John and Beth Tate know all these folks.”
Tate, who according to campaign finance records donated $250 to March’s campaign in August, could not be reached for comment Friday.
The federal lawsuit alleged that in October 2011 John Tate and two of his associates conspired to “knowingly defraud the United States” and, amongst other things, to “willfully falsify, conceal and cover up by a trick, scheme and device a material fact in the matter within the jurisdiction of the executive branch of the government of the United States.”
The lawsuit further alleges that Tate and his co-conspirators funneled money to Sorenson through a political action committee in exchange for Sorenson’s political support of Paul in a presidential election. Court documents show that Tate and the co-defendants even edited a press release drafted by Sorenson announcing his support for Paul.
Tate and his two co-conspirators were found guilty in 2016 and sentenced to six months home confinement and two years probation.
Trump issued his retroactive pardon in December 2020. A White House statement at the time said that the pardon was “supported by Senator Rand Paul and Lee Goodman, former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission. Both Mr. Tate and Mr. Benton were convicted based on indirect campaign payments to a state Senator. According to Mr. Goodman, the reporting law violated was unclear and not well established at the time.”
March, who owns Due South BBQ and Fatback Soul Shack in Christiansburg, previously faced backlash for attending the pro-Trump protests in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6. Video footage shows her at the Washington Monument, but she has always denied having taken part in the storming of the Capitol. “They called me an insurrectionist. I was never at the Capitol,” she told Bunn in the interview.
March made her bid for the House of Delegates after Del. Nick Rush, R-Montgomery, announced that he would be leaving the seat after serving five terms. During her campaign, she ran as an anti-establishment candidate. “I am totally anti-establishment. And the more I see of the establishment, the more I am anti-establishment, because it’s not serving the people,” she said in the recent interview.
While March will not be sworn in until the second week of January, she said that she has already filed a number of bills, including one that would allow school systems to display U.S. flag decals on the sides of school buses. March said that the measure would expose communists among Democratic lawmakers inclined to vote against it. “If there are communists in the House of Delegates, let’s figure out who they are,” she said.
March also told Bunn that she filed legislation that would reward volunteers signing up with local fire departments with a free lifetime hunting and fishing license, and a bill that would repeal the so-called “red flag” gun laws passed by Democrats last year that allows authorities to take guns away from people deemed dangerous to themselves or others. “With red flag laws, all of us could be carted off to jail,” March said, adding that she carries everywhere she goes.
Other proposals that she filed include one that would protect landlords from rent moratoriums and another would prevent schools from issuing mask mandates.
But whether March will remain in the House of Delegates is an open question after the Virginia Supreme Court earlier this week approved a new legislative map that would pair her in the same district with incoming Del. Wren Williams, R-Patrick County, the winner of the race in the 9th House district. “I might end up getting pitted maybe against Wren Williams, who is also not establishment, he is very to the right,” March said in the interview which aired a week before the Supreme Court decision. “They would love nothing more than to put us in a bag together and shake it up and have the cat fight,” she said.